If Only… God’s Confusing, Disappointing Plan

planThe people gave him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out,

Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!
Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in highest heaven!

He entered Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He looked around, taking it all in. But by now it was late, so he went back to Bethany with the Twelve.  Mark 11:8-11 (MSG)

I was nervous the entire 35 mile trip.  Finally the day had come!  I was going to see Billy Joel perform in person.  Having spent years listening to and singing along with Billy, this night was going to be fabulous!  I hoped.  Was the concert going to live up to my hyped expectations?  Could Billy Joel live up to my imagination?  The ride to the concert made me nervous.  Concerned that the Billy Joel I was about to see could ruin the Billy Joel that I developed in my mind over years, I became irritated.  Billy better not let me down, I thought.  Unbeknownst to him, Billy Joel had been through a number of life changing events with me.  I had some grand expectations; the potential for disappointment was high!

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Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the people awaiting a deliverer—the Messiah.  The news of Jesus had spread from village to village as Jesus, His band of twelve friends and the clamoring crowds followed Him from one place to the next.  The word of healing, exorcism, kind teaching, and the dead raised to life could mean only one thing.  Jesus was coming to take over, to end the oppressive Roman rule, to usher in a new kingdom.  If Jesus could bring the dead back to life, how hard would it be to overthrow the government?

Jesus received a hero’s welcome.  The shouts of “Hosanna” didn’t indicate the crowd’s worship.  The shout of Hosanna was cry for deliverance—Lord save us!  A victorious warrior earned palm branches as he rode home from battle. The people were ready for a king—they gave Jesus a preemptive hero’s welcome.  The uncontainable shouts of joy spilled out as Jesus entered the city.  The Messiah, the redeemer, the rainmaker was here to make life better!

Then Jesus looked around and left.

Has Jesus confused or disappointed you?

The oppressed people longed for freedom, longed for relief, longed for the Messiah.  It wasn’t only the Romans who oppressed the Jews.  The Pharisees piled on rules and rituals that made worship cumbersome and cold.

If only the Messiah Isaiah spoke of would come, this world would be better!

If only…

Then this Jesus arrives.   Kind and compassionate, trivializing the persnickety Pharisees, a true man of the people; Jesus could make things better.  He could be the king!

If only…

The plan of the people would have made life good.  Overthrowing Rome was not a new idea.  Getting rid of the Roman taxes and ending the Roman rule that amounted to slavery would make daily life more pleasant.

You see, God isn’t interested in making life good.  God has a better plan.

Paul explained God’s plan this way:

No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord.

 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Butit was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.  1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NLT)

The disappointing, confusing death of Christ and His resurrection opens the door for new life—real life.  Don’t let the apparent silliness of God’s plan confuse or disappoint you.  God has a plan that goes far beyond your imagination.  It’s a plan born of love. It’s a plan complete in the smallest detail.  It’s a plan that far surpasses the good you’ve imagined.

Father, help me see past my own shortsighted plan to see the BEST You have for me.  When I get bogged down in the events of today, remind me of eternity and the precious gift Christ purchased with His life.  Give me Your vision to see the plan You have for me.  Help me rest in Your love as Your plan unfolds.

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Do You Want a Life That Matters?

ServantKing“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.  Matthew 23:11-12 (MSG)

 

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  What an amazing example of His command to be a servant, be yourself, and stand out by standing down.

During the week between His triumphant donkey ride and His crucifixion, Jesus interacted with a number of people or groups of people.  His words to the ultra-religious, the showy, those who took a greater interest in self-promotion over God-promotion got the brunt of Jesus’ anger.  In fact, that group was the only group to receive Jesus’ criticism.

Jesus’ practical advice

In Matthew 23 Jesus gave the “regular” people two pieces of sound advice.

  • Don’t let the ultra-religious be your example.

Make sure it’s God you’re following, not some person.  Those who are more interested in impressing you than they are with your soul aren’t worth following.   In this case, the Pharisees burdened those genuinely interested in following God with cumbersome rules and rituals.   The Pharisees exchanged a relationship with God for actions that looked religious but were self-serving and deceitful.

Jesus made the distinction between the words they spoke and the example they lived.  God’s word is true, trustworthy and right.  God can be trusted.  The reality is, some of those who claim His name can’t.  Jesus warns, be careful who you follow.

  • You will never go wrong taking the role of a servant.

Do you want your life to matter?  Then be a servant.

Jesus exemplified this advice in every aspect of His life.  Jesus left the glory of heaven to become a man.  Jesus fed the hungry, touched the leper, ate with the “sinners” and spoke to women.  Just a few days after this scene, Jesus would die—the ultimate act of obedience and servant hood.  His death offers the hope of abundant life here on earth and eternal life in heaven to anyone who accepts the gift.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but those who assume the role of the servant, become great.  Perhaps not the kind of great that leads to your name in lights.  Think about the people who made an impression on you or who truly influenced your life.  It’s likely that person was in a servant role.  Many of those people are not grandiose.  Did a teacher, a parent, a pastor, or a friend influence you to achieve more, hang in there, do the right thing or cheer you on to be more than you could be on your own?  Was there someone who encouraged you with just the right words at just the right moment?

That is what a servant does.  Jesus advises; if you want to be great—if you want to be influential and remembered, be a servant.

Father, help me be a servant today.  Teach me the value of putting others ahead of me.  Let me learn from Jesus’ example the true value of being a servant. 

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The King Comes to Town…on a Donkey?

donky When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

Tell Zion’s daughter, “Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mounted On a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”

The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Matthew 21:1-11 (The Message)

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.

Jesus, along with many other Jews, head to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Previously, Jesus told different people He healed and exorcized not to tell anyone about it.  It seemed He was trying to keep His ministry a secret.

Jesus understood the need for good timing.

He had disciples to groom.  The guys He picked didn’t even know how to pray, let alone preach.  Nor did they understand His kingdom.  He needed time with them.  They needed time with Him.  Jesus was about to usher in a kingdom like the world had never seen.

Throughout history, the Jewish people had fallen under the authority of many empires.  Very few were friendly.  Most were oppressive, to say the least.  Rome was an oppressive government.  The Roman emperors needed tax money to maintain the empire.  People in the countries under that rule, paid the price for the development of Rome and the lavish life styles of the emperors.

The people longed for release.  They were looking for a king to over-throw the Roman rule.

Then Jesus arrives.

The crowds begin to shout: “Lord, Save Us!”  That’s what hosanna means.

Save He will.  It just doesn’t look like what you might expect.

Jesus rode into town on a donkey.  Compare that to when He rides back to earth from Heaven in Revelation; in that account He’s riding a horse.  What’s the difference?  A king riding a donkey symbolized that king was coming in peace, a horse meant He was coming for war.

The crowd recognized Jesus’ coming and spread their coats and palm branches in the street as Jesus rode by.  It was a first century Red Carpet; an act of honor. How the clamor would change in just a few short days.

Not even His closest friends understood what he was about to do.

Jesus brings a new kingdom.  He brings a kingdom of peace, not between man and government, but between man and God.  To accomplish that, Jesus must lay down His life.

How odd for a king to die for His subjects.

Father, thank you for sending Your Son to be the peace offering needed to restore the relationship so desperately needed.  Open my eyes to see Your plan for me in this upside-down kingdom.  Give me Your heart of love and compassion.  Make me a servant.

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Remember Me

communionWhen it was time, He (Jesus) sat down, all the apostles with Him, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.”

Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, “Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I’ll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives.”

Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory.”

He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.  Luke 22:14-20 (MSG)

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Two of my dearest friends died in the past few years.  The sting is gone, mostly.  There are reminders of them all around me.  Not long ago, while at work, I took a bite of a sugar cookie from the coffee shop and burst into tears.  That cookie tasted just like the ones my friend used to make.  I had reconciled myself to never experiencing that taste again.  When I did, the rush of emotions was overwhelming and I began to cry.

A song, a TV show or movie, a statement made by an innocent, uninvolved by-stander; any of those things or events can bring a rush of memories to mind.  Remembering—it’s a two-edged sword.  Along with the memory comes and odd mix of delight and longing.  I had great relationships.  I have wonderful memories.  Since both those friendships spanned decades, I have a huge sense of loss—the length and depth of our relationships makes replicating them impossible.

Remembering

There had to be an unspoken tension in the Upper Room.  Quizzical, hushed directions for Passover preparations started that year’s unique celebration.  Jesus insisted on washing their feet. The words of “suffering,” “taking up a cross,” and “following Me” no doubt whirled in the minds of the disciples.  This seemed like the last opportunity to jockey for a position with Jesus.  The disciples acted as if this might be the last chance any one of them would have to cinch his position in the coming kingdom.

Jesus was about to face a beating and death on the cross.  His destiny was beginning to weigh heavy on His heart.  Jesus loved His disciples.  As any good teacher, Jesus wanted to make sure His “students” understood the subject matter.  More than a good teacher, Jesus, a friend and The Savior wanted them to understand the significance of the soon-to-be events.

Everyone one of the men in the Upper Room understood the importance and significance of the Passover celebration.  The blood of a spotless lamb purchased the redemption of God’s people from slavery in Egypt.  It was a pivotal event in Jewish history.  One moment so significant, the Jewish people memorialized and celebrated the event every year.  This year was no different.

Oh, but it was different.

Out with the old, in with the new

This Passover was special.  It was the last celebration that would commemorate the sacrifice of a lamb to cover the sins of the people.  As Jesus celebrated this feast one last time, He simultaneously initiated a new celebration, the Lord’s Supper.

I have to wonder what was going through the disciples’ minds.  They certainly knew the Passover prayers and blessings.   What was all this talk of “My body” and “My blood”?  It probably took a few days, maybe weeks, after the crucifixion before it all clicked.  I have to wonder, while writing the Gospel accounts, what emotions stirred in the disciples as they recalled that night.

A New Celebration –Do this to remember Me.

The sacrifice of animals could not accomplish what Jesus’ death accomplished on the cross.  Finally, sin could be washed away —God and man could be reconciled.  Jesus’ body and blood given as the complete sacrifice did what no animal sacrifice could—make sinful man righteous in God’s sight.

Christ’s death is the gift of grace.  What a joyous celebration!  What a reminder of our rescue!

Remember

Paul would write it this way:

…for God bought you with a high price.

So you must honor God with your body.

1 Corinthians 6:20 (NLT)

 

What do you remember when you do this to remember Me?

  • God and Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf
  • The price paid for your salvation
  • The promise of an eternal home  
  • The commands Jesus lived out as an example for our lives now.

Be Born Again

Seek God First

Come to Me

Know Peace

Know Me

 

Father, let me never forget the price You paid when you sent Your Son to die for my sin.  Always keep Jesus’ sacrifice in my view as an example of Your amazing love and grace.  Help me respond by living a life of gratitude and praise. 

 

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Peace for When You Don’t Feel Ready

peace

 

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.

Trust in God, and trust also in me.”  John 14:1 (NLT)

 

 

Setting the scene

Next week, my Jewish friends will celebrate Passover, the most holy of Jewish holidays.  Passover is the holiday that commemorates the Israelites delivery from slavery to Egypt.  John 14 records the last time Jesus will be alone with His disciples before He’s crucified.

Passover celebrates God’s deliverance and provision.  The 10th plague, the death of the first-born, touched every family in Egypt and Goshen.  To be Passed Over by the Angel of Death, each family sacrificed a spotless, perfect lamb.  The blood from that lamb, painted on the top and sides of the doorframe, exempted that home from the angel’s visit.  The blood of that lamb, the Passover lamb, saved the family inside from death.

Remember what John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus?  John shouted, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus was about to become the sacrifice that could save all of humanity from eternal death.

Not ready for the Test

His disciples were not expecting to hear the words, “I’m going to be betrayed and put to death.”

Have you ever watched your plans crumble before your eyes?  Unsettling, isn’t it?

While in school, did you ever procrastinate studying for a test?  Do you remember the panic that took over your heart as you looked through the questions?  Can you remember wishing you had paid better attention, studied just a bit more, prepared a bit more diligently?

Then you can relate to the disciples.

Jesus just announced a pop quiz and the disciples didn’t feel ready.  Actually, Jesus announced the final during what the disciples thought was mid-term.  The disciples were afraid and confused.

John 14 records the words of Jesus comforting his friends.  Truly tender words of love, they give an insight into the heart of Jesus and His love for His friends.  The truth of these words ring as true today as the night Jesus uttered them.

Jesus’ words of peace

  • Don’t let your hearts be  troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
  • I am going to prepare a  place for you.  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I  am.
  •  I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
  • No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.
  • Since I live, you also will live.
  • I am leaving you with a  gift—peace of mind and heart.   And  the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14, NLT)

Jesus offers promises of peace and hope to His friends during a moment when fear and uncertainty raged and threatened to overtake them.

Those promises are the same for you today.  Does Jesus seem far off?  Are you troubled?  Do the events of your day leave you feeling small and helpless?  Are you at a loss for answers as you look at the test questions in this “class” of life?

Jesus is The Way to the Father.  Because of Jesus sacrifice, you can run right to your heavenly Father for forgiveness, for protection, for peace.   He IS the answer to the question.

Jesus took the test, knows the answers and got all the questions right!  Come to Him.

Jesus’ call is:  find the Father, find peace, don’t be afraid.

Jesus made the sacrifice that, when applied to your life, changes everything.

 

Father, today I will rest in the peace You provide. It’s the peace Your Son paid for when He died on the cross for my sin.  I will quiet my mind and listen for your voice.  Teach me to run to You for peace and comfort.

 

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The Fundamental Rule

cardsJesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?”

 “Some say ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”

He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”

Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.”  Mark 8:27-30 (MSG)

My niece introduced me to a card game called Mao.  In the beginning, the dealer seems to review the rules.  The dealer deals a hand to each player states and states the object of the game—be the first one to get rid of your cards.  There is only one consistent rule; the game is played in silence.  Any player talking or making a sound is penalized by with a card, sometimes three or four.  Players learn the rules by trial and error and by observing the patterns that arise as each player makes a play and receives a card or makes a play and rids himself of a card.

If you are a person who likes to figure out patterns this card game is fun.  If you are a rule follower, this game is torture.

Add to this to the mix; the dealer makes up the rules for each game.  In one round, playing a four of spades on a four of hearts will earn you four cards from the dealer.  In the next game, that same play will give the player on your right three cards.  You must identify the patters that arise in each game.

You see, Mao is a dealer’s game.  The dealer makes the rules and enforces the rules as he or she sees fit.

Don’t fret.  I know some of you are trying to imagine how a game like this is playable or fun—just know it is fun if you understand the premise—it’s the dealer’s game.

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Jesus puts His followers on the spot.  He asks His followers what people were saying about Him.  That’s an easy question to answer.  It’s really easy to talk about what other people think about Jesus.  The disciples’ answers reflected their era.  Today if Jesus asked that question today, the answers may be; a “good” man with good teachings, a myth made up by people long ago, or the man who started the Christian religion.

Jesus listened as the disciples offered up their best answers.  Then things got serious and perhaps a bit uncomfortable.  Jesus asked, “What about you?  Who do you think I am?”  It’s a question that makes your heart skip a beat.  Jesus wanted an answer.   What is the right answer?

Peter piped up with the right answer, although it’s obvious Peter didn’t fully understand the ramifications of Jesus bring the Messiah.  Peter had yet to understand fully the rules of the game.

Until this encounter, Jesus had taught the disciples by example and with parables.  Jesus was not ready to tell the plan to everyone.  At this moment, Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah to His disciples.   Jesus knew the disciples had misunderstood the rules of the game.   Jesus had rolled His eyes more than once as the goofy disciples tried to cast out demons, interpret the parables or trust in Jesus’ care.  Even at the very end, the disciples were confused about the rules.  The disciples were still hoping the Messiah would overthrow Roman rule and be the glorious conquering King Messiah.  Jesus will be that Messiah when He comes again, but, in this encounter, Jesus threw in a twist the disciples weren’t expecting.  Instead of a plan that included becoming the king, Jesus told His closest friends that He would suffer and die.  As the kicker, He told them His followers should expect to suffer as well.

Wait!  That doesn’t make sense!  The disciples were on board to be the co-leaders of this great new kingdom.  How can Jesus be King is He’s going to die?  What is all this suffering talk?

John recorded a statement of Jesus that makes many people uncomfortable but explains the rules of the game, completely.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.

No one can come to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6 (NLT)

Jesus’ death made THE way to the Father possible for sinful man.  It’s the fundamental rule of the game.  It’s the one rule you MUST understand.  You see, it’s His game.  He formulated the rules long before time began.  Unlike my niece’s game, God doesn’t change the rules.  Jesus came to die to make a way for sinful, willful, selfish man to have a relationship with a pure, holy, sinless God.

There is no way around it.  You must play by Jesus’ rules.  There are no good actions that will make you good enough for a holy God.  Hoping you’ll end up good enough isn’t the right play.  The rules are not complicated, but you MUST play by the rules.  You must come to Jesus as THE Way to the Father.

If you find that intimidating or off-putting, rest assured, His arms are wide open.  He never turns down a request to take you to the Father.  Jesus made a way for everyone to win!

Who do you say Jesus is?

Father, thank You for making The Way for me to win!  When I am tempted to compromise, remind me of Your loving gift.  When I want to play the game my way, gently bring me back to Your standard.  Teach me the value of playing Your game by Your rules.

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You’ll Find What You Seek

Star-Wars-Luke-Han-Leia“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched the movie, Star Wars.  I’m not going to try to convince you that Start Wars is a spiritual movie because it’s not, it’s a make-believe movie.  At the same time, truth is truth.  Each time I hear Princess Leia tell Hans Solo, “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.” I think of the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus tells the same truth but He says it in this way,

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

What you seek is what you’ll find.  That is why Jesus’ command is: be sure, above all else, make it a priority, do it first—seek God.  When Jesus said, “Seek…” He used a word that means to learn where something is or investigate.  Jesus didn’t suggest you’d stumble upon the truth, but that if you seek God, you’ll find Him.

Jesus’ command is exactly the opposite of what your natural, human inclination leads you to do.  Jesus admitted that in the passage today.  “What about my needs!?!”  You hear that question in many forms.  I like The Message’s paraphrase, people who follow God don’t fuss about temporal, physical, stuff.  Why?  The reality is none of your environment is under your control.  The supply you have is a gracious gift from your loving Father.  You should seek Him, since He is the supply.

Jesus attempts to draw your attention away from this world and all the “stuff” as He points you to your Heavenly Father.  It is there you find all you truly need.  Jesus reassures the skeptic and points out the birds and flowers that don’t worry or work, but live.

Can I clear up a mystery for you?  Many believers seek “God’s will.”  Have you spoken to a believer who was seeking “God’s will” as if it were some elusive, possibly unobtainable life style or life path?  Jesus makes it plain:

If you are seeking God’s will.

God’s will is, seek Him.

There is nothing more important.  You will find what you seek.

Father, thank You for the promise that if I seek You, I’ll find You.  Teach me the value of seeking You first.  Loosen my grip on my things, my comfort, and my plans.  Keep my eyes focused on You.  Make my heart content with Your loving plan and provision for me.

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Come to Me

ozzy on the footstoolAbruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”        Matthew 11:25-30 (MSG)

Ozzy is my dog. I love him.  As cliché as it sounds; he’s my baby.  As much as I love him, he loves me.  Maybe it’s because I’m great and wonderful (wink, wink).   Maybe it’s simply because I have thumbs and can do things he can’t.  Most likely, it’s because I meet all his needs.

Ozzy is an obedient dog, mostly. During his testing to be a therapy dog, he had to sit and stay while I walked 20 feet away.  Then he had to come directly to me when I called.  When he was a puppy, I trained Ozzy to obey voice and hand commands.  I walked him over to designated spot and told him to “wait” while I held up my finger.  Because Ozzy wants to please me, he stayed put, even though, if he had his way, he would stay right beside me in this unfamiliar environment.  I walked away.  When I arrived at my designated spot, I turned around.  Ozzy was looking at one thing, me.  When the evaluator told me to call Ozzy, I gave him the hand signal to come.  He needed no verbal command or encouragement.  Ozzy didn’t need to make a decision about what to do, I hardly moved my hand and he was on the way.  He walked, almost ran, a straight, determined line right to me.  There were other people in room, but they didn’t matter.  Ozzy had one goal in mind, getting back to me as quickly as possible.  Ozzy understands the benefit of being at my side.

Today, Jesus says, “Come to me.”

Jesus, who is one with God, eternal, immortal, who became flesh, and who says, “Be born again” gives the invitation, “Come to Me.”

What is your response to that invitation?

Prior to the invitation Jesus talks about the fickle, indecisive response some have toward His invitation.  Jesus compared those indecisive people to spoiled children.  You know the kind, children who aren’t satisfied with anything they receive.

Do you have a preconceived notion of what Jesus is like?  Do you think He’s going to make you do something weird or become something you aren’t if you come to Him?  Are you punishing Jesus because someone who claimed to be His follower harmed you?  Is Jesus just a caricature that looks like some televangelist?

Put your preconceived notions of Jesus aside.  Don’t let the experience of others keep you from experiencing Jesus yourself.  Come to Him.  You will find a Savior who speaks tenderly to you.  You’ll find a Savior who is willing to go to the extreme to meet your need.

Listen to Jesus’ words; He’s speaking them to you:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Run, don’t walk, in response to this gracious invitation.  Don’t let other things or people distract you.  COME TO HIM.  Find the rest, wholeness, value and meaning for which you’ve been searching.

It all starts with Jesus.  He says, “COME!”

Father, thank You for offering such a gracious invitation in the person of Your Son.  Help me be determined to come to Jesus for everything I need.  Teach me the importance of a personal experience with Christ. 

You Must Be Born Again

born againThere was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee.  After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit…”

 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.  And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  John 3:1-8,16-21 (NLT)

 

Before Ozzy, there was Nick.  Nick was a naughty, willful, spunky dog with a mind of his own.  In my frustration, I would yell “Nicodemus!  You must be born again!”  When I yelled that in the back yard, I didn’t mean that my dog, Nick, needed to say the “sinner’s prayer.” What I meant was Nick needed to be different.  He needed change.  He needed to abandon his current behavior and be made new.  Nick was never “born again.”  He remained and ornery dog—I’m not sure he even went to “dog heaven.”

Meet the real Nicodemus.  He was a Synagogue “big-wig.”  Nicodemus was a man with all the correct religious answers.  He could quote scripture.  He was a great man. He was rich.  This Jesus-guy was unsettling to Nicodemus.  Somehow, Jesus resonated with the people. Nicodemus was curious.

The Starting Point—Come to Jesus

John mentioned that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.  Some think this meant Nicodemus was afraid or ashamed to come to Jesus.  Maybe that was the case.  Perhaps the reason for the nighttime visit was; it was quiet at night and with the quiet, there was more time to talk.  Regardless of the timing, the important thing is Nicodemus came to Jesus.  That’s where it all begins.

The Unasked Question

Nicodemus begins the conversation by trying to shine-up Jesus.  Jesus skips to the end and answers the question bumping around behind the prattle in Nicodemus’ mind. It’s the question that burns in every human heart—how can my relationship with God, that sin destroyed, be restored?  Every human since Adam struggles with that question.  Humanity tries to fill the God-shaped void with many things: religion, other relationships, substances, rules, activity, good deeds or acquiring things.  Nothing really satisfies that longing in the soul for God, except God.

Be Born Again?

The phrase “born again” may conjure different images in your mind.  Certainly, it was not what the curious Nicodemus was expecting to hear.  Why “born again”—what is significant about that analogy?

What does it mean to be born?

  • Birth provides life.  Birth is the starting place.    
  • Birth happens only once.  This was the very thing that confused Nicodemus; he understood he could be physically born only once.  Jesus was speaking of spiritual birth, not physical.  That is good news!  Being born into Christ’s family is a once-and-for-all-time kind of event!
  • Birth requires no “work” from the one being born. Read John 3:16; God loved the world, He gave His Son; those who believe are eternally rescued.  All you need do—believe and accept Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Birth is a new start.  The baby that leaves the womb has a transformed life.  Breathing, eating, moving—everything that baby did in the womb is changed and is NEW!  Christ offers a new way of living life.

Every individual is born once physically.  Because of man’s fall, the spiritual “family” you were born into is a family of sin.  It’s a family with a heritage of evil and self-centeredness.  It’s a family with judgment as its inheritance.  It’s a family spiritually separated from God.

That’s why Jesus says, “Be born again.” Being “born again” is a gift from God.  God, discontent to leave His creation in the grip of evil, sent His Son to provide a way to be new—to be re-born.  The one who is born again, is adopted into a new family of light and grace.

It’s the staring place.

Father, thank You for Your gift of new life.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son for my sinful soul.  Help me live my new life in the vibrancy of Your love, light and grace.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

It’s His Day of Rest- Just Like Every Other Day

20130803_220218Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  Hebrews 12:2 (MSG)

Hi!  I’m so glad you stopped by, your visit truly is my honor,

but I am no longer posting a new post on Sundays.

There is a new post at this site Monday – Saturday.

Why did I stop posting on Sunday?

  • Church, family and friends make up my Sunday.
  • I needed a day to regroup and collect my thoughts.

 

Plan to come back tomorrow! 

The past week began by finding out YOU are the joy that made going to the cross worth it.  John introduced you to the Jesus who attended a party and ended up doing what He does best, meeting needs.  Then Jesus was at the Temple, demonstrating His passion for His Father’s holiness.   Finally, Jesus interacted with the “churchy people.”  It was a week of surprising glimpses of the Savior; the Word that became flesh.

Next week continues the look at our Savior and example, Jesus.

If you are new here, take a moment and click around.  You might like what you find.  If you are a regular visitor check out the archive and catch up on a post you may have missed.

If you like what you see:

  • come back each day.
  • share this site with a friend.
  • share a comment in the comment section.  It’s lonely here in my office.  (Don’t worry your      email address is safe with me.)
  • “Like” this site or Share it on your Facebook page, +1 it on Google, re-tweet it on Twitter…       you get the idea.  It’s a brave new electronic world and your help is greatly appreciated!  It’s   an easy and efficient way to spread the gospel!

The more those 4 things happen the higher  Finding the Holy in a mundane world is ranked             in search engine crawls—don’t ask me to explain it—it has to do with how all the stuff that        pops up the right side of the screen is chosen when you search a topic on the Internet.

 

Would you like to have the daily post delivered to your email inbox?  Just to the right, you can enter your email address and click the subscribe button.  It’s that easy—but there’s one more stepYou will receive a verification email – once you confirm your subscription, you’ll receive a daily email.  Don’t worry—really—your address is safe with me.

Would you like your own copy of a devotional book?  I have one available on Amazon.com. Click the link and you can order away!  (Thanks in advance!)

I made the title of my first book easy to remember.  Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a 31-day devotional and would be great for a friend or family member who doesn’t “use the computer.”  For those who like the computer, a Kindle version is available.

There are other devotional books in the works – - even a group Bible Study guide.  I printed the manuscript for my second book this week—it’s a 90 day devotional (maybe more—I’m still editing) about The Books We Never Read.

Keep in touch–I hope you’ll stop back soon!

Rachel